Into the Flesh

by Gregory Scott Lunceford

A person could stack jars of berry preserves atop Geraldine's breasts. She had one of those chests that leapt out in utter and shelf-like confidence. Full of milk, it was a teasing bounty for newborns countywide, and she held it back that day with a straining Atlanta Braves tee-shirt, distorted to illegibility.

The tingles and pulses of her own pregnancy had floored her when they showed up in all their biological glory, but she had been comforted by the man himself. He had taken a special and obtrusive liking to Geraldine and had reinstalled that special power of faith deep inside her. He was waiting for her down at the church, and she stumbled around, late, rushing to get ready. Not too much mascara, Geraldine now, she thought. He likes a little, but he'll cast aside any Jezebel just as quick as lightning.

Somewhere beneath her congregational mask, Geraldine was vibrantly clear--crisp as the white air over the Pearl River at dawn. But now she was on her way to meet the man. She drove down Main Street, splitting the town clean in half. As she rolled past, she swung her eyes away from the Still Water Inn which lay, in all its cheap imposition, on the left side of the grey-capped road.

She squinted those eyes shut for a moment and opened them on an enormous plywood sign with painted blue letters: "You've just passed the best shooting range in Mississippi" with a big blue arrow pointing into a disheveled cluster of old buildings. The clever proprietors, light bulbs glowing above their heads, had gone back to the sign and carefully crossed out their state with a line of paint and dabbed "America" in just off to the side. Geraldine's truck clambered past the sign well above the Main Street speed limit.

The curves of Geraldine's shirt broke into the shadowy foyer of the Fairweather Baptist Church considerably ahead of her young, smooth face. The Reverend was there to greet her, holding his arms wide as if they sported wings. He engulfed her in angel-arms and swept her inside. She always felt better there. She slipped into a world of cool promise as he spoke of salvation and deification (which, in the throes of his Southern accent, was indistinguishable from a fecal synonym).

Their hesitation in front of the altar was momentary. The words breathed into her ears were hushed and billowy as cotton. Only after she looked up at him with the eyes of a fawn and nodded in amen did he guide her through the thick mahogany door in the far corner of the church. A tall, drawn man pulled a case from a locked clergyman's trunk. After he eased the case to a tabletop, unlocked it, and snapped it open, he threw the Reverend the key. Geraldine didn't know the man and shot a frightened look toward the Reverend, but he just smiled back at her, showing a bouquet of lily-white teeth. His eyes told her there was no cause for fear. His teeth told her he wanted to meet her on the side of a grey-capped road after her business was done.

All parts slid into place with oily, metallic ease. The clicking-together and tearing-apart weren't difficult and other, more important, instructions were given by the Reverend straight away: position, time, anatomical location, route, disposal of the case. Getting things done was what the Reverend was all about. After all was said that needed to be said, the Reverend clutched Geraldine's tender shoulders, working his fingertips lovingly into the flesh. He looked at her with televangelist eyes and spoke. Snow covered any and all of her remaining doubt--audible snow--like white noise hissing from a smiling transistor radio:

"My special one," he said. "My very special angel, doesn't it feel wonderful?" She whispered back at him: "Yes, Reverend. In the name of Jesus, yes." Geraldine snapped the case shut and swept it into her arms like a baby. As she walked through the thick, mahogany door, the Reverend's eyes followed her. They lingered at her curves and coaxed her along. The Reverend, sower of only the most trusting feminine loam, said "she can do it", and the drawn man nodded silently behind him. Geraldine jerked herself onto the hot, sticky seat of her truck and a little Jesus spilled over her brim. She hit the ignition and pointed the truck toward the clinic. That damned doctor! That murderous damned doctor! And a Jew into the bargain! She would aim straight, without wavering, just the way she had learned from a fellow parishioner weeks before, down at the best shooting range in America.